By Commodor Hall
Trucks and buses touch nearly all of our lives. These commercial motor vehicles play an essential role in supporting our nation’s economy and transporting us, our families, and our friends. With all this commerce and movement, it’s no surprise that more large trucks and buses are on the road than ever before. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, more than 12 million CMVs are registered to operate on U.S. roadways. About 6 million CMV drivers move those vehicles almost 300 billion miles annually.
It’s easy to think of large trucks and buses simply as bigger cars, but that’s a mistake. Trucks and buses are much more difficult to maneuver and have enormous blind spots. By being aware of these differences and making some simple adjustments in behavior, drivers can keep the roads as safe as possible. Even though fatal crashes involving large trucks and buses have declined in recent years, more than 4,000 people a year still die in such crashes.
The FMCSA’s Our Roads, Our Safety program seeks to raise public awareness about how to operate safely around large trucks and buses. It brings together a coalition of highway users to produce strong, collaborative highway safety messages and to use innovative strategies to promote the group’s messages to targeted audiences—not just CMV drivers, but also other drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicle passengers. The overarching message is that drivers, riders, and pedestrians share responsibility for safety. The program aims to educate these groups on how to improve driving behavior, coexist on the same roadways, and work together to reduce accidents.
ISRI became a partner in the Our Roads, Our Safety program in late 2017. Other partner organizations, along with FMCSA, include the American Trucking Associations, American Bus Association, American Automobile Association, and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. Our common goal is reducing the number of crashes on our nation’s roads, specifically crashes involving large CMVs. We are developing a series of safety videos, advertisements, infographics, public service announcements, and social-media-shareable images to spread safety tips and reminders throughout the country.
Becoming a partner gives ISRI an opportunity to network with other, like-minded associations and government officials and provide input into the message-development process. Outreach materials developed to date include
n infographics related to CMV blind spots, long stopping distances, wide turns, and the need to stay alert;
n tip sheets on driving safely around large trucks and buses, as well as tips for CMV drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians;
n YouTube videos on buses’ longer stopping times and trucks’ blind spots, both with the message “give them extra space”; and
n a kids’ art contest. The 2017 contest allowed children in kindergarten through sixth grade (ages 5—12) to use their creativity and talent to help raise awareness of how to stay safe on the roads. The 12 finalists received recognition from U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.
In recent meetings, the partners have been brainstorming concepts for better communicating safety messages to specific generational groups, such as baby boomers and millennials. To reach baby boomers, the partners have discussed working with AARP to place truck and bus safety messages in its online and print publications. For millennials, the partners have discussed collaborating with cellular service providers on safety graphics that focus on truck and bus safety.
ISRI becoming an Our Roads, Our Safety program partner also gives member companies online access to CMV crash statistics and free outreach materials, including infographics for print and online media, radio spots, postcards, tip sheets, videos, and banners. Some materials are available for download; others, such as postcards, can be ordered pre-printed for you to hand out, mail, or share in public areas. The partner tool kit even suggests possible safety messages you can run to accompany the graphics on Facebook, Twitter, and the like. I encourage you to download and make use of the free materials in your facilities, on your websites and social media, as handouts or mailers, and more. Visit www.fmcsa.dot.gov/ourroads, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 202/493-0472.
Commodor Hall is ISRI’s director of transportation safety.